Students at Columbia and Barnard are responsible for maintaining countless relationships— with roommates, friends, parents, siblings, bosses, colleagues, significant others, etc. We are in a perpetual state of contact with others—calling our worried moms, texting friends we promised to grab coffee with, messaging random classmates for the notes from last lecture—and it can grow exhausting. Our lives seem consumed by the dozens of relationships we form; and in the continuous sustaining of these bonds, it can be easy to lose sight of the relationship we have with ourselves.
The president and founder of WinkMe Barnard, Dee Wisne, understands this better than anyone. Wisne, BC ’19, characterizes WinkMe, a national organization with chapters on college campuses, as fundamentally “a self-love club” for those who identify as female/femme. Wisne brought the group, which currently has 25 active members from both Columbia and Barnard and a board consisting of five students, to Barnard in 2015 in order to “promote self confidence and self esteem in women,” she explained. “We really aim to be a space to practice internalizing self-love and help us practice prioritizing ourselves. It’s about prioritizing your relationship with yourself: as a healthy person, as a happy person, as your own best friend.”
There’s value in having organizations devoted to self-love and affirmation at any college, but it’s especially vital that highly competitive schools, such as Columbia and Barnard, have groups devoted to such causes. “On this campus, the perfectionism is… rough,” Wisne acknowledged with a sigh. “Everyone senses that the world is a competitive place… and on this campus, we all want to be the best.” Campus competitiveness can often permeate every realm of life: schoolwork, the internship hunt, exams, and so on. “It leads to competition with other women, and the competition with yourself to become better and better—it’s really toxic and stressful and can lead to a lot of unhappiness because no one can be perfect.”
This year, WinkMe is making an increased effort to get involved on campus. “We’re going to try to have a fundraiser of some sort, and we also do a lot of bonding activities—like having a ‘Galentine’s Day’ event,” Wisne said. She emphasized that community-building is a crucial part of WinkMe’s overall mission as well. “We’re trying to be a source of community for people. We’re really hoping WinkMe will increasingly be a place where we’re all friends—a place to meet people and hang out, but also a space you can brag about yourself, love yourself, and look into the different elements of your life that are preventing you from having the best life possible.”
While Wisne noted that it’s vital to practice self-care no matter your age, it’s especially important that college-aged students do so. “We all have to live with ourselves our whole life. In a time that’s very turbulent and changing—with where you’re living and who you’re friends with—you are a consistent person in your life,” she said. This turbulence is something undeniably present in most Columbia and Barnard students’ lives. We live in one of the largest cities on earth, at an institution with thousands of people all trying to excel at the highest degree; at this stage in our lives, everything is constantly changing.” Wisne closed her statement with a reminder that, though important for young adults, self-care should not only concern college students, saying, “I encourage anyone to work on being their own home and their own best friend—it’s really fulfilling and wonderful.”
To get involved with WinkMe Barnard, email firstname.lastname@example.org. WinkMe Barnard meets from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays in Milbank 306.